Recently advocates of the homeless population have purposed that land be given to the public to use as a tent city on the outskirts of town. This is a difficult issue to address. On one hand you have a homeless population that is shuffled from place to place, without ever being able to camp permanently without being fined. Fines that would of course be pointless. These people want a space they can call their own, a home- even if it’s a tent. It would add a much needed element of structure to lives of those who are in dire straits.
But– and it’s a big one…
On the other hand, some see this as the reality of being homeless. They don’t work or pay bills but they want those of us who do to pay for them to live off the state. That’s quite a presumption. Furthermore, we have facilities for the homeless, but some have complained that they are too restrictive. They cite rules about sobriety and pets as two reasons that keep them wanting their own space.
But these two sides are viewing the homeless in extremes. Advocates see them as the helpless and downtrodden, completely innocent and stigmatized by an uncaring public. Whereas the opposition sees them as lazy degenerates who refuse to work, drunken addicts whose only ambition is to live off the state. Well, they’re both wrong. Reality, like in so many cases, is somewhere in the middle.
Not all homeless people are drunks and addicts. But anyone who has ever worked at a convenience store will tell you that many of them do suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction. Mental illness is also a large factor, and without help many turn to drinking and drugs to help soothe their symptoms. This is why many facilities demand sobriety upon entering, because those who are trying to get clean will constantly be hindered if they’re surrounded by temptation. As for pets, it’s a common sight to see a homeless person with a dog or cat. It’s a lonely life and pets make a great, nonjudgmental companion. But honestly- that dog needs more care than that person can provide. And they could probably find a safer home via the humane society. In short- these are excuses. And that’s exactly what a tent city would allow- a great big excuse not to get clean, not to get help. Hence a tent city would not be a safe place for those who are just genuinely down on their luck. Drugs could be used freely, and violence would be almost a certainty — with the added benefit of attracting more homeless people- full of excuses- to the area.
By Magdalen O’Reilly